Quentin Tarantino plays revisionist history in his supposedly penultimate feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which has an impressive 89% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Set over three days in 1969, the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino puts a fairy-tale spin on what would be the murders of Sharon Tate and others by followers of Charles Manson. Four takes:
- It delivers some of "the most relaxed and elegant filmmaking of Tarantino's career. Also the most personal," according to NPR's Chris Klimek. While "Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate is present here more [as] a set element than a character," DiCaprio gives a "career-best" performance as fading TV star and next-door neighbor Rick Dalton, notes Klimek, who also highlights "the most suspenseful scene in a movie this year."
- Pitt "especially brings a sly knowingness to the subtleties of playing second banana" in his turn as Dalton's stunt double, while Tarantino manages to "indulge his penchant for horrific brutality—especially against women," Ann Hornaday writes at the Washington Post. And yet "at its most sincere and touching," Once Upon a Time in Hollywood "rescues [Tate] from the tabloid headline she never deserved and reminds audiences of what a beautiful, gifted comedian she was," Hornaday writes.
- Chris Hewitt would certainly agree that Tarentino set out to shine a light on Sharon Tate the person, rather than the murder victim. "But, in the last fifth of the movie, the writer/director's use of the Tate story begins to seem opportunistic and tone-deaf," Hewitt writes at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. And eventually, it "leads him to a dead end that seems to steal from Tate the respect the rest of the movie has worked to create."
- Kenneth Turan's reaction, however, was one of "distinct pleasure." "Front and center is Tarantino's passion for the late '60s." Indeed, "the specificity of … references to the artifacts of the era is astonishing to the point of obsession," he writes at the Los Angeles Times. On top of that, the film is "rich in involving acting," and "best of all … are DiCaprio and Pitt, completely at ease with their parts and each other."
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